I'm not a doctor, let me through

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the most interesting trials taking place in London at the moment is that of Colin Stimpson, who is accused of conspiring to deceive the NHS.

The charge is that, completely without medical qualification, he did for 20 years hold down a series of major posts in a London hospital that now wishes to remain anonymous.

Stimpson admits the charge, but pleads his actions were entirely justified. This extraordinary stance emerged yesterday when he came under cross-examination for the first time . . .

Counsel You are Colin Stimpson?

Stimpson No. I am Dr Colin Stimpson.

Counsel The court has already heard that you have no right to call yourself doctor.

Stimpson A man may call himself anything he chooses. If that were not so, Screaming Lord Sutch would be in the Tower of London by now.

Counsel Yes, but calling yourself a doctor does not make you a doctor, surely? Walking up and down hospital wards in a white coat does not make you a skilled diagnostician, does it?

Stimpson No more or less than walking in and out of law courts in a wig and gown makes you

an adequate judge of human


Judge I think this is not an argument you are likely to win, Mr Gascoigne. I suggest you get on with it.

Counsel Very good, my Lord. Now, Mr Stimpson, would you not agree that for the last 20 years you have been pretending to know what is wrong with your patients? You have masqueraded as a curer of ills you did not always recognise?

Stimpson All true.

Counsel Does this not make you a bogus doctor?

Stimpson Certainly not. The same is true of all real doctors.

Counsel Are you seriously suggesting that qualified doctors would pretend to be in charge of a situation when in fact they did not know what was going on? Stimpson Not all the time. All doctors from time to time find that they recognise the symptoms they are presented with and know how to deal with them. The same is true of bogus doctors, of course.

Counsel And how, pray, may a bogus doctor recognise real symptoms?

Stimpson Oh, but most symptoms are not real at all. The vast majority of patients I see have symptoms which are either bogus or passing. Do not forget that the body is a self-healing mechanism, and a high proportion of illnesses will clear up by themselves. Treatment might only exacerbate the condition.

Counsel Are you saying a real doctor might make a mess of a case that you would treat more adequately by leaving alone?

Stimpson Of course. There is even a word for it, 'iatrogenic'. It means 'of an illness caused by doctors'.

Counsel I see. And is there a word meaning 'of an illness caused by a bogus doctor'?

Stimpson I doubt it. There is not much need for it. Bogus doctors have to be very careful. They are much more likely to be caught out than real doctors, so they have to do less damage.

Counsel Are you saying that you would be safer seeing a bogus doctor than a real one?

Stimpson Absolutely no question. A real doctor may occasionally spot a genuine condition, but it takes a bogus doctor to spot an unreal one.

Counsel Meaning?

Stimpson A great many patients who seek treatment through the NHS are not genuinely ill at all, but seeking comfort, or advice and a caring ear. They may be suffering from psychosomatic disorders, or malingering, or faking illness to get off some arduous task. They may recently have read about some disease in the Sun, or heard about it on the Esther Rantzen show, and have convinced themselves they have the symptoms.

They are all, in one way or another, bogus patients, and who better to treat them than a bogus doctor?

Counsel Are you saying that many ordinary people are guilty of approaching the NHS on false pretences?

Stimpson Guilty is the wrong word. It is not against the law to be a bogus patient. If it were, our prisons would be full of people wheezing and coughing and saying: 'A doctor, quick - I'm dying]'

Judge I'm sorry, but I shall have to adjourn the court. All this talk has made me feel unwell.

Stimpson Shall I take a look at you, my Lord?

Judge No, no] Keep him away from me]